Monday, February 22, 2010

Italian Ricotta Pie

This is a recipe from Foodblogga that I've been wanting to try for a long time but never had the audience. I followed her recipe fairly closely, which is a bit unusual for me but I'm glad I did. It turned out fluffy, sweet and delicious.

You will need for the crust:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 stick salted butter
2 eggs

For the filling:

1 lb whole ricotta cheese, drained
1 cup light cream
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
3 eggs
10 oz crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Using a pastry cutter or food processor with a metal blade, combine the dry ingredients for the crust. Cut in the butter, then add the eggs, being careful not to overmix. Form a ball with the dough once combined and wrap in plastic; refrigerate while you mix the filling or for up to 2 days.

For the filling, combine the ricotta, cream, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. Add the eggs and finish by adding the pineapple. Set aside and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Roll the dough out until the radius is about 10 inches. Grease a 9 inch pie pan and press the dough into it. Pour in the filling and top with a dusting of cinnamon. Bake for 20 minutes at 425, then 30-60 more at 350. Check every ten minutes and once the center is firm, not jiggly, it's ready to come out. Allow to cool and chill before serving.

Lobster Bisque

This is a quick, relatively easy recipe for lobster bisque. It calls for a lb of chunk lobster meat, which you can either harvest yourself or buy in the seafood section of more upscale grocers. This recipe serves 3.

You will need:

2 cups milk
1 cup chicken broth
4 tbsp flour
1/3 white onion
1/4 cup roasted red peppers
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb lobster meat
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Heat the milk, salt, broth, peppers and onion over medium heat and allow to simmer. In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the lobster. Stir with a spatula every few minutes for 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Take the broth mixture off the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Using a blender or food processor, combine the lobster meat (as well as drippings/butter from the pan) with the broth and onion until finely mixed. Put back on the heat and add the Worcestershire sauce and flour, whisk well. Keep hot several minutes (to thicken) or until ready to serve.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Manicotti Formaggio al Spinaci

Manicotti formaggio: possibly my favorite Italian dish, yet it has taken me numerous times and lots of testing to get it remotely correct. The issue isn't usually in the ingredients, it's in the execution. One mistake and you're left with a soggy mess or crunchy, thick pasta outside runny ricotta. I had tried everything -- hand rolled pasta, egg roll wrappers, different flours, you name it. I finally broke down and just got the pre-rolled pasta sheets at Whole Foods.

With as many failures as I've experienced, this recipe is the closest that I've been able to get to that oh-so-elusive perfection attained by an Italian grandmother. The result is still a bit flimsy to handle so I'm adjusting the cooking time accordingly. The taste is still fabulous. This recipe serves about 2 so adjust it if need be. I also call for small amounts of several different cheeses; if this puts a dent in your budget either money or time-wise, use Parmesan and ricotta in the filling and mozzarella instead of provolone on top.

You will need:

4 oz ricotta cheese
1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
1 oz non-smoked provolone, grated
2 tbsp grated parmesan
2 eggs
1 cup lightly steamed spinach, drained
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp sea salt
5-4"-6" flat pieces of fresh pasta to wrap
1-1 1/2 cups marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the ricotta, spinach, egg and salt. Add the red pepper flakes and spinach, finishing by adding the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Put a few tablespoons of sauce in the bottom of a baking pan. Wrap a few tablespoons of the ricotta-spinach mixture in the pasta, forming long filled tubes. Set side by side in the baking pan and top with the rest of the marinara, then with the parmesan. Bake for 20-30 minutes, broiling for 2-3 if the top is not browned. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes, ideally. Make a small incision in the middle of one of the center manicottis after the cooling time to ensure that the filling is not runny (if so, bake another 10 minutes -- better to be safe than sorry!) I've found that they require a different baking time each time, but working with fresh pasta does change the game a bit. Once it's cooled enough to serve, it's wonderful alongside garlic bread.